Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, fellow Eels fans and lurkers from other clubs – it gives me great pleasure to announce the return of Clint Gutherson to Eels opposed work. Yes, the sovereign of Saleyards was in his castle.
More on that later.
This morning’s skills and opposed session at Saleyards was day one of Parramatta’s preparation for this Saturday’s trial against the Knights. There was a bit of banter during the warm up and extras, but it was very much game faces on during their work.
Nobody typified that more than head coach, Brad Arthur. From his drills with the forwards, to the opposed game, the messages were being delivered in typical BA fashion. That included plenty of praise for players executing as they should.
Nearly two hours were spent out on the field. Here’s the highlights:
With the backs involved with kicking drills, BA stayed with the forwards to run them through both defensive and offensive plays.
The defensive drills practised decision making and execution with different shapes being run through the middle.
The offensive drills were obviously designed to throw similar pressure on the opposition.
A number of the forwards have worked strongly on their passing game during the pre-season. Eels fans are well aware of what Brown provides to the team, but the team won’t be reliant on one man. It’s also been interesting to observe the lines that certain forwards are running.
Last year I tipped Nathan Brown to have a huge season. This year I’m tipping Kenny Edwards to have a blinder, with a massive watch on Kane Evans and Danny Alvaro.
Outside of that, it’s going to a challenge for Arthur to finalise the forwards on his bench. A case can be made for anyone on the forwards roster deserving a spot in the 17. Certainly, everyone has been demonstrating that they want the gig.
As per previous opposed sessions, the forwards (including the dummy halves) swapped between the blue and green teams. There’s little doubt that BA is providing every opportunity for players to push their claims.
The game had a strong contrived element with turn overs or restarts sometimes determined by BA. The blue team were again dominant, especially when the ball was pushed wide.
An early standout moment saw Kaysa Pritchard burst into open space from the ruck, before linking up with Jarryd Hayne for the try.
For the most part, the packs were evenly matched (remember – there’s no interchanging – just swapping between the teams) and the contests through the middle were tight. The other tries mostly came from getting on the outside of the defence out wide.
The feature of the play that grabbed my attention was the talk. Leading up to the first and only trial, communication on the field is a good barometer of where they are as a team. It’s noticeable that Tepai has found his voice and that Kenny Edwards is all business in his talk. It’s only a trial match this weekend, but the players seem focussed. To be honest, they’re probably over all training and no playing.
This was an entree only invitation to dinner for the Guthbus. After completing a kicking drill with the backs, Gutho donned the orange vest for the opposed work and took up his position at fullback for the greens.
When a player wears an orange vest, it means that he’s not to be involved in full contact. It’s a quick visual reminder for the other players, because the odd big collision can still happen at training.
Gutho was involved in a bit of defence, a few sweep plays, kick returns and links. However, after about 15 minutes, time was called for him and he returned to his rehab and conditioning.
This was the next step in the King’s long road back, albeit a significant one. He’s done an amazing job to get to this stage before the season kicks off.
Quite a bit of time was spent on kicking and catching during extras. I continue to be impressed with Will Smith’s range of skills and Jarryd Hayne showed his class during these drills.
We were fortunate to have Joey Grima and Brad Arthur come over to spend a bit of time with us after the session finished. The Eels coaches are genuine in their appreciation of supporters and generous with their time. It’s much appreciated.
Stay with the Cumberland Throw this week as we lead you into the Eels big trial against Newcastle.
We’ll continue the training reports through the week, then take you into the big day.